Ofsted states: ‘High-quality early education is the focus of Ofsted’s revised inspection framework.’ The new Ofsted inspection framework – the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) – was introduced for all early years providers from Sept 2016 and there is an Early Years Inspection handbook for early years providers to read alongside the CIF.
Teaching and learning are an important part of the new Ofsted inspection framework and all inspectors will be watching to see how well childminders and other early years providers teach the children in their care. This does not mean we have to do what teachers in a school environment do...
‘Teaching for small children is not blackboards and desks’ says Sir Michael Wilshaw (Ofsted). ‘It is counting bricks when building a tower, learning nursery rhymes and familiar songs and gently coaching a child to put their own arms into their own coat’. If you want to read more about Ofsted teaching expectations please see this Nursery World article.
He goes on to say that everyone is a teacher - parents, relatives, childminders ... we all support children to learn new things in different environments.
The expectation is that teaching children starts from age 2 with ‘short, sharply focussed adult interventions’ to support their learning - see the DfE guidance ‘Learning and Play in the early years: a balancing act?’ DfE, 2015 here.
Practitioners are expected to spend time during the day interacting with children – asking open-ended questions, playing together, popping in some learning, making sure children can be independent… there is less focus in the new inspection framework on the provider’s written work.
However, this does not mean that providers should cut down on how much information they share with parents about their child’s learning and development journey – or stop providing parents with ideas for home learning. This free EYE guide to improving parental engagement using technology might be of interest.
Ofsted say that they will not comment on the type of planning providers use – they will watch and listen and decide if the planning used in the provision is effective. This means that you can plan using whatever works best for you: continuous provision, in the moment, long term, themes etc. Individual planning is always the most important and the type of planning that inspectors will be looking for during inspection. You will find more information about planning here.
The inspector might only have a quick look through your files – instead s/he will be focussed on the impact of your planning on the learning and development of the children.
Alongside one-to-one and group teaching experiences, practitioners are expected to allow lots of time for children to follow their own interests and ensure learning is individual to the child. The inspection schedule informs us that inspectors will comment on – ‘How well teaching strategies, together with support and intervention, match individual children’s needs and ensure that they make good progress.’ We are already seeing lots of actions and recommendations in inspection reports to improve the quality of teaching and actions relating to ‘missed opportunities’ to teach different areas of the curriculum are common.
Ofsted inspectors will be observing the provider’s interactions with children during both planned and child-initiated activities. We can stand back and listen if children are happy and engaged but we must always be ready to spot the ‘teachable moment’ when we need to step in and support a child’s learning, offering, for example, words of encouragement, a resource or an activity suggestion etc. I have read a number of inspection reports where comments have linked to the provider’s lack of engagement with the children during key times of the day such as transitions. In one report, ‘to further improve the quality of the early years provision (which was graded outstanding) the provider should, according to the inspector, ‘enhance arrangements for supporting children between activities and routine parts of their day, to avoid the very rare occasions when children are not constructively engaged.’
The characteristics of effective learning are an important part of teaching – we need to recognise how each child learns so we can tap into their individual interests and ways of learning. When we have observed children’s learning characteristics we need to think about how we can use them in our planning, for example by planning to support independence or including questions which promote critical thinking. We are seeing actions in Ofsted inspection reports relating to children not displaying all the learning characteristics during inspection and the provider failing to promote / use the child’s learning characteristics in their individual planning. This is my parent blog about the characteristics of effective learning – I asked them for information about the way their child learns at home and wrote a blog to help them make judgements about the type of characteristics their child is currently using.
Grade descriptors for ‘outstanding teaching, learning and assessment’ state:
- The quality of teaching is consistently of a very high quality, inspirational and worthy of dissemination to other providers
- Providers have a clear understanding of how children learn
- Providers offer children rich, varied and imaginative experiences
- Assessment is precise, sharply focused, monitored and used
- Children consistently demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning.
- Does not cover all 7 areas of learning – make sure you use all 7 areas of learning when asking parents for their children’s starting points and during your observations, assessments and planning. Yes you need to focus on the prime areas until they are established but don’t forget about the specific as they back-up the prime.
- Practitioners do not provide interesting activities in enough depth – you need to demonstrate that children are involved and active through the day and that your planning meets their learning needs.
- Does not provide challenge resulting in a lack of enthusiasm for learning - children should be challenged and encouraged to learn – don’t sit back – complacency is not an option. Inspectors want to see quality interactions – not a stream of instructions.
- Practitioners do not have a good enough knowledge of how to promote learning – during your planned activity at inspection you will be asked why – why have you planned this activity… what do expect this child to get out of the activity… how did the activity go… what did that child learn… what would you change next time?
- Does not meet the children’s needs – there will be lots of times during the day when you change things for the individual child. Make sure you point these out to the inspector – I am doing this puzzle with Child A because she needs challenge and this puzzle with Child B because she is less experienced and it better suits her needs.
- Observations are not of a good quality – poor observations will not tell you enough about the child to enable you to plan for their learning effectively. Ofsted do not say how many observations you need to do – but they do expect observations to be good quality, frequent and accurate.
- Children are not making good enough progress from their starting points – the new inspection framework is focussed on children making good progress from their starting points. The starting points are the things parents say their child can do before they start in your care, backed up by your initial observations when you assess if children are doing what parents have observed at home.
Teaching, learning and assessment is an important part of the new inspection framework – it is up there alongside safeguarding as the focus area for inspectors. You will need to have prepared a planned activity ready to do with the children – the activity should not be a surprise to them – it should be something you do regularly (Ofsted inspectors will spot if it’s put on especially for them). You will find more information about preparing children for inspection here and ideas to help you prepare for the joint observation here.
If you would like more information about teaching and learning please contact me. I will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Chat soon, Sarah x
Knutsford Training and Consultancy